Earlier this summer, I drove to the Charles River boat access ramp on Woerd Avenue in Waltham to watch the release of 500,000 American shad larvae, in the first of many stockings this year along the Charles. I was met by Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game (DFG) Commissioner Mary Griffin, Bob Zimmerman, Executive Director of the Charles River Watershed Association (CRWA), Deborah Rocque, Deputy Northeast Regional Director for the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and Matt Ayer from DFG's Division of Marine Fisheries. This was the first of shad stocking this year; officials plan to release three million larvae into the river as part of the American Shad Propagation Project.
Dozens of community members of all ages stopped by the access ramp to learn about the stocking. They were shown examples of the larvae’s brood or donor stock from the Merrimack River and Matt talked to them about the project’s history. Commissioner Griffin, Bob, Deborah and other members of USFWS also fielded questions concerning the project and its importance to the Charles River habitat.
The project, which was introduced in 2006 to the Charles, has already released approximately 13 million larvae. These larvae are marked with an antibiotic called oxytetracycline which stains the otoliths (the inner ear of the fish) with a permanent mark. American shad take five to six years to return from the ocean to the river of stocking origin, and so it is exciting to hear that some marked adults have begun returning to the Charles.
The shad is a type of herring, and one that is vital to the ecosystem of Massachusetts and the Charles River. While once native to the river, it had disappeared after the construction of dams and introduction of pollution into the river. With both improvements to water quality and the potential for dam removal we are expecting to see a vibrant shad community once again in the Charles.
It was really a fulfilling day and an important one for the environment. While Deborah pointed out that this type of, “conservation does not happen overnight,” it is great for DFG to be able to team up with such forward thinking groups like CRWA and agencies like USFWS for the long-term good of the ecosystem and Massachusetts. As a resident of Massachusetts, I really appreciate the care and work that individuals and agencies put in to our natural resources in order to restore them to their full potential and beauty.